The recently installed Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced plans to partner with the private sector to reinforce the security of local, state, and national digital infrastructure, as well as to expand hiring and work with foreign counterparts to strengthen international collaboration. This endeavor is supported by the Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2021, a bill introduced by a bipartisan group of Congress members serving on a variety of high-profile committees.
According to the sponsors of the bill, the U.S. Government has fallen behind on matters of cybersecurity in recent years, with one legislator claiming that the former Trump administration deprioritized security efforts, especially those related to Russian state-sponsored hacking. Jim Langevin (D-RI), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems, claimed that cybersecurity wasn’t as much of priority for the previous administration, and that foreign cyber threats may need to be taken more seriously.
Langevin went on to emphasize the importance of empowering the State Department to address these issues on an international level: "The sooner that the State Department can start taking a leadership role, the better...it's definitely a 'clean-up on aisle nine' on our international front.”
The new bill aims to establish a Bureau of International Cyberspace Policy within the Undersecretary of Political Affairs offices, as well as promote U.S. international leadership on cybersecurity via a new office of International Cyberspace Policy within the State Department.
By positioning the State department to be able to better advocate for the U.S. in matters of cyber diplomacy on an international level, the sponsors hope to enable a whole-of-government approach toward defending against malicious hackers, especially those working on a state-sponsored basis. The DHS further plans to work with the U.S Secret Service via its Cyber Fraud Task Force to respond to ransomware attacks and pursue and prosecute those responsible.
While the DHS, along with the proposed new offices, will have their work cut out for them, lawmakers, diplomats, and cybersecurity experts alike are looking forward to the opportunities to partner in securing America’s infrastructure - at all levels of government - from unlawful foreign surveillance and cyberattacks.